Trading Eric Thames

I had originally planned to do a piece discussing the offseason assessments of Eric Thames and how the projection systems were all rather bullish on him and yet many weren’t quite ready to trust the numbers. I find that interesting because projection systems are notoriously conservative and yet they had him down for 25-30 homers with an .800-.850 OPS. I can’t say I was out there blindly trusting the numbers, either. I’m not one who relies too heavily on projections when doing my drafts and auctions, but I was heartened by how seemingly aggressive the systems were on Thames and wound up securing a few shares.

Instead of doing all that, I’ve decided to go a different route. I’m going to go position-by-position assess the 1-for-1s I’d offer for Thames. That’s right, everyone thinks about selling Thames, but I’d strongly entertain buying and I think these names would entice a lot of leaguemates. I know not everyone does straight up 1-for-1s, but hopefully this will give you an idea of what to look for if you’re in the Thames market – whether as a buyer or seller. I have a group of on the fence players at each position and I’d recommend trying for those when selling Thames.

We just don’t see months like his April too often.

There have only been 95 months of a 229 or better OPS+ since 2000. We’ve seen 16 of them in Aprils, including four this April (Freddie Freeman, Bryce Harper, and Ryan Zimmerman in addition to Thames). The 12 previous Aprils of a 229 OPS+ or better yielded a full season 181 OPS+ on average ranging from 147 to 268.

Aprils of 229 OPS+ or Better Since 2000
PLAYER YEAR APR OPS+ SEASON OPS+
Larry Walker 2001 235 160
Barry Bonds 2002 283 268
Barry Bonds 2004 369 263
Adam Dunn 2004 234 147
Derrek Lee 2005 236 174
Albert Pujols 2006 264 178
Jason Giambi 2006 262 148
Alex Rodriguez 2007 245 176
Jose Bautista 2011 266 182
Lance Berkman 2011 235 164
Matt Kemp 2012 281 147
Troy Tulowitzki 2014 237 170
Ryan Zimmerman 2017 262 TBD
Bryce Harper 2017 250 TBD
Freddie Freeman 2017 249 TBD
Eric Thames 2017 229 TBD

Dunn had the worst full season OPS+ of the bunch and still hit .240 AVG, 34 HR, 86 RBI, and 95 R from May 1st on. Kemp only played 106 games the year he had his huge April. You can’t really fake your way to this kind of month.

Thames has legitimate skill support behind his surge, too. This is more Jose Bautista/J.D. Martinez than Chris Shelton/Bryan LaHair as far as I’m concerned. For this exercise, I’m obviously not going to run down every single player that I’d trade in a Thames deal. Instead, I’ll highlight some upper tier players at each position that I think you should be able to get for Thames now. If you’re trading for Thames, you’d obviously aim to give less than this high end in order to maximize your value. Let’s get started:

STARTING PITCHER

Not trading these guys for Thames: Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, Jacob deGrom, and James Paxton

On the fence: Stephen Strasburg, Yu Darvish, Chris Archer, Corey KluberJohnny Cueto, Justin Verlander, Carlos Martinez, Carlos Carrasco, and Zack Greinke

Notables I would trade:

Madison Bumgarner – Obviously this is because of the injury and I’m not even sure you could definitely get Thames for an injured Mad Bum over 50% of the time.

Noah Syndergaard – Another obvious injury case. I’m taking five months of Thames for three uncertain months of Thor right now.

Jake Arrieta – It’s tough to argue with the 28% K and 7% BB rates, but my biggest issue with Arrieta coming into the season was durability and I’m still concerned about him making it through 30+ starts. I think you could get a throw-in with Thames for Arrieta in a lot of situations.

Jon Lester – This isn’t just because of poor starts his last two times out (he allowed 2 ER in in 18 IP over his first three starts), I’m just not that hyped on the 33-year old lefty. His swinging strike rate is at a four-year low 8% and his strikeout rate has taken a similar tumble, down to 21% (sat at 25% from 2014-16). I’ve got Thames on par with the likes of Edwin Encarnacion, Nelson Cruz, and Giancarlo Stanton power types and they were drafted around Lester so I’d have no problem making the swap.

Gerrit Cole – It still feels like he doesn’t maximize his stuff, but he’s only allowed 9 ER in five starts since his 5 IP/5 ER season debut.

Masahiro Tanaka – I’m not completely out on Tanaka – my AL Cy Young winner – as he probably should have more strikeouts based on the swing-and-miss he’s showing and he’s got a 2.30 ERA since that Opening Day disaster, but I really dig Thames.

Lance McCullers – This was one of my favorite breakout picks coming into the season and I definitely wasn’t alone, but there are legitimate questions around his durability so I think he and Thames have similar risk/reward profiles. This is a perfect 1-for-1 where the McCullers team needs a power infusion and the Thames team needs pitching.

Kyle Hendricks – Guess I’m fading the Cubs rotation. I’d definitely trade Hendricks for Thames, but I wouldn’t take Hendricks for Thames.

RELIEF PITCHER

No: Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman, and Craig Kimbrel

On the fence: Zach Britton – He’s returning from injury this week, but I don’t think he’s completely out of the woods health-wise. I’d probably wait a little bit before moving him for Thames. I want to see if the strikeout and groundball rates get back to 2015-16 levels.

I’d trade any other closer for Thames at this point and I don’t think any are surprising enough to write up. Mark Melancon has been a stud after that Opening Day hiccup, but I’d comfortably deal him for Thames.

CATCHER

No: none

Notables I would trade:

Buster Posey – Posey’s power is down again with just a couple homers in April and a .116 ISO, but his base skills are still strong and he should be good for a .300+ AVG. Catcher is the most scarce position on the diamond, but I think Thames’ output is enough to overcome the advantage you’d get with Posey at C.

FIRST BASE

I’m not sure I see the point in a 1-for-1 at 1B for Thames, but I’ll cover it anyway.

No: Paul Goldschmidt, Freddie Freeman, Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, and Anthony Rizzo

On the fence: Edwin Encarnacion

Notables I would trade:

Wil Myers – He’s off to a blazing hot start with a .310 AVG, 7 HR, and 2 SB, but the 29% K and 2% BB rates are concerning as is the career-high 13% swinging strike rate. He’s only 2-for-4 on the bases. I never saw him repeating the 28 SBs from last year and nothing in April has made me reconsider that position. If someone saw Myers as a more bankable asset and wanted to move Thames for him, I’d gladly pounce.

SECOND BASE

No: Jose Altuve, Daniel Murphy, and Robinson Cano

On the fence: Brian Dozier – He fronted the league two months last year with just 5 HR through May so I’m not particularly concerned with the 2 HR April. Dozier has also averaged 16 SBs a year since 2013 and already has five this year.

Notables I would trade:

Rougned Odor – This isn’t just a response to his slow start (4 HR, 54 wRC+), I wasn’t huge on Odor coming into the season because of his unimpressive plate skills (21% K, 3-4% BB) and horrific base stealing success rate (53% coming into ’17). I buy the power, but I don’t think he’ll out-homer Thames nor do I think he’ll have a better batting average so if he doesn’t steal much, there’s no real advantage for Odor over Thames.

Dee Gordon – If Gordon is all of my speed, I’m not sure I would make the move, but in any other scenario I’m definitely doing it and I think you could get it done. Gordon looks like his old self with a .297 AVG, 16 R, and 7 SB so far after the lost 2016 so I think the market will have confidence in trading for him if they need speed and/or batting average.

THIRD BASE

No: Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Manny Machado, and Josh Donaldson

On the fence: Justin Turner – Obviously his .387 AVG will come down as he won’t maintain a .427 BABIP, but he’s toting a career-best 10% strikeout rate so I think he’s a candidate for .300+ this year. Meanwhile, the power will come. He’s got an unlucky 3% HR/FB rate despite a batted ball profile in line with this last couple of seasons. I would love to approach a power-starved Turner team with a Thames deal that included a little secondary upgrade for me as well. Turner/Carrasco or Darvish for Thames/Pineda or Taillon… something like that.

Notables I would trade: everyone else

There was a big split between the top tier and everyone else at third base with the first four all going in the first round and then next highest being Kyle Seager at pick 67. Miguel Sano has been great so far, but that .450 BABIP isn’t lasting all year so the batting average will come down.

SHORTSTOP

No: Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager, Trea Turner, and Carlos Correa

On the fence: Trevor Story and Jonathan Villar

Notables I would trade:

Xander Bogaerts – His 0% HR/FB rate won’t last, of course, but Thames could out-homer Bogaerts by 15 just from this point on and I don’t think Bogaerts is guaranteed to have a substantial batting average edge.

OUTFIELD

No: Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Mookie Betts, and Charlie Blackmon

On the fence: Stanton, Cruz, Christian Yelich, A.J. Pollock, Ryan Braun, George Springer, Jose Ramirez, and Khris Davis — feel like I should expound on Davis and Ramirez since including them with this group represents their own value jumps:

Ramirez – If I wouldn’t deal Lindor for Thames, I’m not sure I’d give Ramirez, either. The two Cleveland Indians youngsters just haven’t been that different at the dish since the start of last year. Add in the position flexibility for Ramirez to counter Lindor being a shortstop, too.

Davis – He has shown early on that his 2016 was no fluke at all. I actually think Thames will have a similar power output with a better batting average, but Davis has the pelts on the wall and that matters. That said, this one is probably the most hypothetical because I don’t see why this deal would get done. They essentially do the same thing so each side would probably just keep their own guy.

Notables I would trade:

Yoenis Cespedes – The pulled hammy is definitely a factor here as I’d have slotted in the “on the fence” category if he was fully healthy. We’re hearing it’s not a serious hamstring strain and that he shouldn’t be on the DL too long, but the lack of clarity from the Mets leaves me a touch nervous. Cespedes’ name value could likely net you Thames-plus, whether it’s a second player in a 2-for-1 or an upgrade on the secondary pieces in a 2-for-2.

Gregory Polanco – In fairness, I’m not even sure you can get Thames for Polanco in a 1-for-1. I loved Polanco coming into the season, but then a long-term shoulder issue cropped back up and now he’s dealing with a nagging groin issue. The ceiling is sky-high with a healthy Polanco, but he’s not fully healthy right now.

Carlos Gonzalez – Maybe it’s a pipe dream to get Thames for Cargo, but I don’t think it’s out of bounds to offer it. The key will be if the Thames team was a big believer in him or just wound up with him because he fell in their lap. If it’s the former, they’re not buying low on Cargo.

Hopefully this gives you something of a roadmap whether you’re trading Thames or trying to acquire him. It’s only been a month, but the magnitude of his performance merits a legitimate value change and I have rocketed him up into at least the top four rounds and would look for someone within that range if I were trading him.

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Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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JoseAbreusRaft
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JoseAbreusRaft

Glad I picked him up off the waiver wire.